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Tucson Jazz Institute Almni

Below is an alphabetical listing of Tucson Jazz Institute and Ellington Band graduates. Ellington band members from 2004-2008 that were part of the Arizona Jazz Academy are included. These alumni paint a portrait of the Tucson Jazz Institute. The bios are part editorial, part a history of our school, and part information from graduates' Facebook and web sites. Photos are sometimes current and sometimes from TJI archives. This page is alway under construction. Anyone listed that wants to change a photo or add/alter their listing in any way can email me changes. Many students need to be added and any help with photos and bio information is greatly appreciated. Please email Scott with any news, additions, changes, etc. Thank you. Scott Black


Alan Acosta (alto sax) was a TJI student from 2007-2014, a graduate from Sunnyside HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for three years. He was a member of two Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st Place at the JALC Essentially Ellington festival, and part of the Ellington Band awarded performances at the Monterey Jazz festival. Alan was one of 12 graduates in 2014 headed for great music colleges. Alan was accepted into ASU where he is in Mike Kocour's top ensembles. He is joining other TJI graduates there--Tyler Bauer, Nick O'Brien and Julianne Colwell. Alan was our most awarded Ellington Band lead alto player. He performs with great passion and has the ability to communicate with his audience. Alan is finding great opportunities in Phoenix and loving school. He visits Tucson often and can be seen with the AZ Roadrunners and on special occasions. Alan performs on Ellington Big Band CDs Things to Come, Lightnin', and I Like the Sunrise.



Tyler Bauer (tenor sax) was a TJI student from 2011-2013, a graduate of Rio Rico HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for one year. He was a member of our Ellington Big Band awarded 1st Place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival. Tyler is one of very many current students that come to TJI every week from Nogales or Rio Rico. We have more than 20 students from the Nogales area communiting to TJI weekly or twice weekly at this time. In 2013 Tyler was accepted into ASU and is having great success in Mike Kocour's performances jazz program. Tyler is a wonderful jazz player that grew a huge amount at TJI and has found a happiness as an aspiring musician.



Rita Brown (trombone) was a TJI student from 2010-2015, a graduate of Catalina Foothills HS, and a member of our Basie Band for several years. Rita was a great student at TJI and at Catfoot and is now a Sophmore at Northern Arizona University where she is getting a full scholarship and studing music education. Rita is disiplined, kind, focused, and talented and we are sure she will do great things.



Sam Chess (trombone) was a TJI student from 2009-2014, a graduate of Magee MS and University HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for four years. He was a member of two Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st Place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival, and part of the Ellington Band and the TJI Concord Combo awarded performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Sam received soloist awards at every festival he attended over a five-year period with TJI. In the fall of 2014 Sam moved to New York City and is attending Juilliard School of Music. Sam has been hired for a couple of gigs by Wynton Marsalis in his New Orleans Band. Sam loves being in New York for the music and he is also working on his own stand up comedy act in NYC clubs. TJI has Sam play at special concerts and Wednesdays with the AZ Roadrunners when he is town. Watch for our emails and you can keep up with Sam when he's in Tucson. Swingin' the Blues, Things to Come, Lightnin', and I Like the Sunrise.



Julianne Colwell (bari sax) was a TJI student from 2010-2012, a graduate of Mountain Rose Academy, and a member of our Ellington Band for one year. Julianne made great progress in just two years at TJI and has a very promising jazz future. Julianne is curently one of our many graduates that attend Arizona State University, where she is majoring in saxophone performance. She is playing gigs in the Phoenix area and is a Barista at Charlie's Cafe. Julie likes coffe and fashion and is on Twitter @songpondroryamy. Julie performs on the Ellington Big Band CD Things to Come



Kacey Fassett (alto sax) was a TJI student from 2012-2014, a graduate of Highland HS in Chandler, and a member of our Ellington Band for two years. She, like so many others on this page, was a member of our 2014 Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st Place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival. Kacey has chosen to move to New York City where she attends the prestigious NYU in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Kacey is doing a double major in music and literature--she's a great writer too. Kacey, with her classmate Dalton Danks, came to two rehearsals a week from Chandler AZ to be a part of our Ellington Band. Kacey is a great alto player and is seen here soloing at the Essentially Ellington Festival with our Ellington Band. Kacey performs on Ellington Big Band CDs Lightnin', and I Like the Sunrise.



Max Goldschmid (multi-instrumentalist) was a TJI student from 2006-2012, a graduate of Catalina Foothills HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for six years. He was a member of three Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st Place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival, and part of the Ellington Band awarded performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Max is the one of the most talented musicians all of us at TJI have ever met, let alone taught. Max is a master on trumpet, saxes and trombone and is a beacon of inspiration for all TJI students. Max has received awards at numerous competitions, including the Outstanding "Doubler" Award for clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet at the 2010 Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center in New York City, and most recently second place in the International Trumpet Guild Jazz Improvisation Competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two times he has been a finalist at Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition. Max received multiple awards in Downbeat Magazine's 35th annual student music awards. Max continues to live in Tucson and is attending the University of Arizona. He can be seen performing weekly with the AZ Roadrunners and the Pete Swan Band. Max performs on Ellington Big Band CDs Swingin' the Blues, Things to Come and his own CD Maximum Exposure.



Andrew Halchak (saxophone) a member of our Ellington band from 2003-2006. In 2010 Andrew received his Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Performance from Berkley College of Music. In 2012 he received his Master of Music degree from The New England Conservatory of Music in Jazz Studies, with a focus on the research of microtonal music. Halchak has been a featured artist at the Panama Jazz Festival, the NaguaNagua Jazz Festival in Venezuela, the Jazz a Vienne Festival in France, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, the Vitoria Jazz Festival in Spain. Recent performances with Fred Hersch, Jason Moran and The Big Band Wagon, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Luis Bonilla, George Garzone, The Rebirth Brass Band. Andrew appeared with Arthur Vint at the Tucson Jazz Festival in 2016. Andrew currently lives and works in New York.



Micah Laird (trumpet) (far right in photo) was a member of our Ellington band from 2012-2015. Micah is a graduate of Sahauro high school. He has been a performer with the famous Blue Devils Drum and Bugle Corps since 11th grade. Micah went with our Ellington big band to the Essentially competition in 2014 when the band won first place. Mr. Laird is now a Sophmore at Northern Arizona University where he is getting a scholarship and studing music education. He is a great trumpet player and NAU is privledged to have him as part of many of their ensembles.



Robbie Lee (pianist and singer) was a TJI student from 2009-2014, a graduate of Tucson HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for four years. He was a member of three Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival, and part of the Ellington Band and the TJI Concord Combo awarded performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Robbie received soloist awards at every festival he attended over a five-year period with TJI. In the fall of 2014 Robbie moved to New York City and is attending Manhattan School of Music. Wynton Marsalis often hires Robbie for solo piano and singing jobs and for Jazz at Lincoln Center fund raising campaigns. Robbie is staying at New York city school and is busy and enjoying being among many great musicians. TJI has Robbie play at special concerts and on Wednesdays with the AZ Roadrunners when he is town. Watch for our emails and you can keep up with Robbie in Tucson. Robbie performs on Ellington Big Band CDs Swingin' the Blues, Things to Come, Lightnin', and I Like the Sunrise.



Ryland (Gibb) Mandish (drums and percussion) was a TJI student from 2007 - 2011, a graduate of Tucson High School, and a member of our Ellington Band for two years. He was a member of our Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st Place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival. Gibb is graduating in the spring of 2016 from the University of Arizona. TJI alummni that are now part of the U of A band with the new head of Jazz Studies, Dr Angelo Versace, in 2015-2016 are Gibb (drums), Jeff Sandberg (bass), Max Goldschmid (trpt), Anthony Gibes (trpt), Dominic Muller (trpt), John Black (bone), Drew Sheets (bone), Gabriel Paco (alto), and David Lasansky (bari). Gibb is a fantastic drummer that can be seen in many of U of A ensembles and many gigs around town. He is applying to graduate schools and the possibility of moving to Minneapolis is also on his radar. Gibb performs on Ellington Big Band CD Things to Come.



Aubrey Martin (saxophones) was a TJI student from 2009-2015, a graduate of University HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for four years. He was a member of two Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival, and part of the Ellington Band and the TJI Concord Combo awarded performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Aubrey received soloist awards at every festival he attended over a five-year period with TJI including the Ella Fitzgerald Aaward at the 2014 Essentially Ellington Festival for the Outstanding High School Mmusician at the competition. In the fall of 2015 Aubrey moved to New York City and is attending Manhattan School of Music. He is loving NYC and the many opportunities to play with great musicians. TJI has Aubrey play at special concerts and on Wednesdays with the AZ Roadrunners when he is town. Watch for our emails and you can keep up with Aubrey in Tucson. Things to Come, Lightnin', and I Like the Sunrise, Roll 'Em.



Mike Moynihan (tenor saxophone) a member of our Ellington band from 2003-2007. Mike is another graduate from our first Ellington Big Band. In 2007 he went to Indiana University and after a couple years he came back to Tucson, and he graduated from the University of Arizona. During a sabbatical from his university studies, Mike toured the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Botswana, and South Africa with Zimbabwean music legend Thomas Mapfumo as a member of his band The Blacks Unlimited. Mike is on of the busiest saxophone players in Tucson and is a major asset to our local scene! Mike and Teddy Raven were our first star soloists on the same instrument and set the standard for others to follow--Aubrey Martin / Sergio Tabanico, and Sam Chess / John Black. You can see Mike perform in Tucson often.



Gareth Price (drums) was a TJI student from 2005-2009,a graduate of Canyon del Oro HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for two years. Gareth was a student at CDO High School which was a key school for TJI at that time, we wish that would happen again. Gareth was a very swinging drummer and part of one of the best Blue Note combos ever, they received a perfect score in 2009 Fullerton Jazz Festival. Gareth moved to Phoenix upon graduation and attended Mesa Community College. In 2012 Gareth landed a gig performing at Disneyland,CA, where he is currently employed. This is one of the steadiest playing opportunities available, and it gives him time to pursue other music activities in the L.A. area.



Ben Rachbach (piano) was a TJI student from 2004-2007, a graduate of Catalina Foothills HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for two years. Ben went to Swathmore college where he graduated with a degree in Chinese. He was active in the music scene at Swathmore playing many concerts and developing his playing and composing. Ben was a Fullbright Fellow for one year 2011 - 2012 where he designed and led qualitative research on a computer-assisted learning program in cooperation with Stanford University's Rural Education Action Project. The past two plus years Ben has lived in San Francisco and is a research analist at GiveWell. Ben speaks Chinese and Spanish. We see him in Tucson atleast once a year and he is playing great jazz piano.



Tim Rachbach (drums) was a TJI student from 2006-2013, a graduate of Catalina Foothills HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for four years. Tim joined TJI in 6th grade (he was brought by his brother Ben), he was a member of two Ellington Big Bands awarded 1st place at the JALC Essentially Ellington fFestival, and part of the Ellington Band awarded performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Tim lead the line of current TJI college students to New York City where he attends the Manhattan School of Music. Tim is studying with master drummers John Riley and Kendrick Scott. As the drummer for the New York Youth Symphony Jazz Band 2014-15, Tim has had the opportunity to perform in various jazz clubs in NYC including Dizzy's Club Coca Cola with special guests Lew Tabackin, Luis Bonilla, and Jane Monheit. Tim has also had the opportunity to play in small groups comprised of student musicians across NYC. Tim is one of the most creative, musical, swinging, and versatile drummers in a long line of great TJI drummers. No band can sound better than its drummer. TJI has had great success on the groove of fantastic drummers, Arthur Vint, Gareth Price, Kevin Davenport, Gibb Mandish, Dalton Danks, and Tim Rachbach. Tim performs on Ellington Big Band CDs Swing the Blues, Things to Come, Lightnin'.



Teddy Raven (saxophone) a member of our Ellington Band from 2003-2006. Teddy is a graduate of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music in 2010, where he majored in Jazz Studies. Teddy Raven is living in the California Bay Area. Involved in a diverse group of projects and genres, Teddy has performed or recorded with music luminaries Sly and the Family Stone, Beats Antique, Jazz Mafia, Deana Martin, The Original Coasters, and Theodossi Spassov among others. He has also toured throughout the United States, Western and Eastern Europe and Turkey, and has released three albums of his original music. In addition to jazz, Teddy's love of Balkan Music led him to receive a Fulbright Fellowship to study folk music in Bulgaria from 2012-2013. As a Fulbright Research Fellow, Teddy studied the kaval (traditional shepherd's flute), traditional composition and arranging, piano, and carried out an education program with Karandilla Youth Orkestar, Bulgaria's most renowned Romani brass band. As the summation of his yearlong studies, Teddy recorded an album of original music featuring over 30 Bulgarian musicians in four different ensembles. Since returning from his time abroad in 2013, Teddy has made a strong impact on the vibrant Bay Area music scene as a performer, composer, and educator. Teddy is a member of local bands Kuckaw! (East Bay funk), Midtown Social (California Soul), MWE (instrumental Balkan), and the Jazz Mafia (musicians collective). He is also the co-musical director of a large-scale dance/multimedia performance called Hindu Swing, which explores the history and relationship between Indian dance/music and jazz.



Arcoiris Sandoval (piano) a member of our Ellington band from 2004-2006, a graduate of Tucson HS. Arcoiris went to the University of Arizona and then moved to New York City in 2010. In July 2012, she performed as a semifinalist in the 2012 Montreux Solo Jazz Piano Competition held at the Montreux Jazz Festival. She is a recipient of the 2013 and 2015 ASCAP Young Jazz Composers Award and she also participated in the 2013 Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. under the artistic direction of Jason Moran. Arcoiris Sandoval and bassist Mimi Jones are the musical directors and composers for the multimedia D.O.M.E. Jazz Philharmonic Orchestra, a production which integrates composition, cinematography, and choreography and features extraordinary artists including Steve Wilson, Jamie Baum, Tia Fuller, Claire Daly, Luis Perdomo, Justin Faulkner, Hans Glawischnig, and Riza Printup. ArcoIris was on faculty for the Fall 2013 semester at a collegiate music conservatory near Chennai, India called the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music where she lectured on a variety of musical subjects including Composition and Arranging, Contemporary Harmony, Jazz Piano, Music Theory and her own course "Music in Nature." She also performed at Jazz Fest 2013 in Calcutta, India with the renowned Indian Jazz guitarist Prasanna Ramaswamy and toured around India with a jazz fusion trio collaboration she formed with drummer Karina Colis called "The Golden Ratio Project" featuring original compositions and arrangements. She performed with The DOME Experience Jazz Philharmonic for the 2015 APAP Conference which took place at the Hilton in midtown NYC. She is now actively performing around New York City with The Golden Ratio Project, with the Mimi Jones Band, as well as with her new jazz quartet "Sonic Asylum" featuring Steve Wilson, Nate Smith and Mimi Jones.



Ian Stapp bass was a TJI student from 2004-2007, and a member of our Ellington Band for three years. Ian received a scholarship to the University of North Texas, studying for two years before completing a BFA at the City College of New York. While at CCNY, Ian had the privilege of studying with bass legends John Patitucci, Gary Peacock, Larry Grenadier, and Tony Scherr. Ian maintains a busy performance and teaching schedule, working with students on guitar, cello, and piano. Ian teaches at the Tone Academy of Music in New York City. We see him in Tucson and every year in NYC during the EE Festival. He performs with Aurthur Vint and Associates and performed at the Tucson Jazz Festival in 2016.



Sergio Tabanico (tenor sax) was a TJI student from 2008-2014, a graduate of Desert View HS,and a member of our Ellington Band for three years. He, like so many others on this page, was a member of two Ellington big bands awarded 1st place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival, and part of the Ellington Band awarded performances at the Monterey Jazz Festival. He is pictured here receiving an award from Wynton Marsalis. One of the class of 2014 star soloists Sergio has also chosen to move to New York City where he attends The New School in Manhattan. He is loving lessons with tenor great Ben Wendel. Sergio joins TJI grads in NYC: Austin Boise, Sam Chess, Andrew Halchek, Kacey Fassett, Robbie Lee, Aubrey Martin, Tim Rachbach, Ian Stapp, Arthur Vint and others. Sergio visits Tucson and can be seen with the AZ Roadrunners on specially occasions. Sergio performs on Ellington Big Band CDs Things to Come, Lightnin', and I Like the Sunrise.



Gavin Tidaback (trumpet and singer) was a TJI student from 2004-2011, a graduate of Catalina Foothills HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for four years. He was a member of our Ellington Big Band awarded 1st place at the JALC Essentially Ellington Festival. He is on track to graduate from Northern Illinios University in June 2016. Gavin is the middle child of the three Tidaback children, all of who made important contributions to TJI. We expect to see Gavin as part of the Tucson music scene and as an instructor at TJI starting this summer. Gavin has worked to become the prototype modern trumpet player, a great instrumentalist, a lead trumpet man and a jazz soloist. Gavin can be heard singing and playing on Swingin' the Blues, Things to Come.



Arthur Vint (drums and band leader) a member of our Ellington band from 2003-2007, a graduate of Alice Vail MS and University HS, and an Ellington band member for three years. Arthur like so many TJI graduates moved to New York City, he holds a B.M. in Jazz Studies from the William Paterson University of New Jersey and a M.M. from the Manhattan School of Music. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife Lindsay, their son Henry, cat Olive and dog Hannah. He maintains a busy performing and recording schedule with a plethora of different groups including The Candy Shop Boys, North of Amarillo, The Brain Cloud, Melaena Cadiz, Austin McCutchen, Scott Tixier, as well as gender-bending comedian Murray Hill and many more. He can also be found fronting his own groups, Arthur Vint & Associates, The Bedford Avenue Society Band and The Hot Tamale Baby Daddies. Arthur has appeared on over 25 albums in his career as a sideman, but will be stepping out on his own with his debut release as a leader, "Through The Badlands," coming out in January of 2016 on Ropeadope Records. His band appeared in January 2016 at the Tucson Jazz Festival.



Alex Weitz (saxophones) was a TJI student from 2005-2009, a graduate of Catalina Foothills HS, and a member of our Ellington Band for three years. Alex followed Mike Moynihan and Teddy Raven as the Ellington's Band star tenor man. Alex is currently pursuing graduate studies in music composition at the University of Miami where he performs with the Henry Mancini Institute Jazz Septet coached by Terence Blanchard. In March of 2013, he released his first album of original compositions titled "Chroma" and also recorded in the big band for George Benson's new album "Inspirations." He was recently selected to participate in the 2014 "Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead" at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC where he performed on their Millennium Stage. In the summer of 2012, he attended the Banff International Jazz Workshop where he was mentored in composition and improvisation by some of the leading names in modern jazz. He has had the opportunity to share the stage with artists such as Benny Golson, Terence Blanchard, Chick Corea, Brian Lynch, Dave Douglas, Dave Liebman, Fred Hersch, and Jeff "Tain" Watts. In May 2013, he won a DownBeat Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Jazz Soloist. He is currently focusing on performing original music with his group "Chroma."



James Williams (trumpet, trombone, tuba and singer) was a member of our Ellington Band from 2003-2007. James is arguably the most successful Ellington Band graduates in the music field to date. He co-founded The New Orleans Swamp Donkeys Traditional Jass Band in October 2012, and currently plays and sings as well with Irvin Mayfield and The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. He finds great inspiration in the works of the immortal Louis Armstrong. James resides in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans, LA. Look him up on YouTube and watch some cool videos!



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Tucson Jazz Institute, holding classes at Utterback Magnet Middle School
3233 South PINAL Vista, Tucson AZ 85713
Mail: TJI, PO Box 87920, Tucson AZ 85754
Phone: (520) 514-0935
tji@tucsonjazzinstitute.com